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Newham Bookshop

Vivian Archer, Gilda and the Newham Bookshop


Gilda was, without exception, the bookshop’s favourite author. She always did signings, talks, sometimes at very short notice,and built a huge fan base.
She introduced me to her many contacts in East London and to her favourite restaurants. Many hours were spent talking, eating and drinking very fine wine.
Her contribution  and knowledge of the history of East London was immense, and showed so many that their memories were so important to document.
Gilda, you will always be remembered. Thank you for great memories – Vivian Archer


What Gilda meant to me 

We are sitting around a table at a popular Greek restaurant in Hoxton Square. Gilda, John, Mum, Dad, my friend Tash and me. It’s my 20th birthday. Tash and myself are already two deep into a lethal ozo cocktail. Gilda orders another bottle of wine.

We’re covering every major topic: food, politics, family and food. Did I mention the food? Tash and I had just come back from a weekend in Paris where we’d completely run out of money, and had a fantastic time, so we devour the food we have in front of us since we’d been living off French crisps and pickles. It’s a great birthday meal, surrounded by friends and family, in a trendy restaurant. Everyone is getting tipsy (Dad starts to fall asleep, the reliable sign!) and the food is excellent.

Gilda gets chatting to our waitress, as Gilda always did, and gets her life story, as Gilda always did. She had just moved from Spain to attend the circus school just around the corner (now the premier institution for circus arts.) She is home sick, excited and broke. We have a great meal, with the usual rangling over who will pay (I promise, one day it will be me!) At the end Gilda slips the waitress a 20 quid note and says ‘Just for you,’ with a wink. The waitress bursts into tears.

There’s a meme going around the internet that reads “if someone is nice to you, but not nice to the waiter they are not nice.” I couldn’t agree more! Gilda taught me a lot of things, but one of the most important lessons I learnt from her was how to chat up the waiting staff. It makes for a better world.

It’s a few years after that wonderful birthday meal and I’m reflecting on what Gilda meant to me. Like her I’m a hybrid of Jewish, English and East End. Like her I’m teacher, feminist, sometime writer and lover of a decent meal. She taught me how to enjoy the company of others, have a glass of wine and treat people with respect. Every time I have a great meal I quietly raise a glass to Gilda, who knew how to have a good time. – Rachel Archer



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